Is Rental Fashion A Sustainable Solution For Over Consumption?
Every day the public is introduced to a new ‘sustainable’ brand, claiming to reduce pollution while producing ethically sourced products. But if we look closely, is creating more items ever really sustainable? Even if these products are eco-friendly, the main problem remains that we are creating and consuming way more than required.
As the Indian clothing industry is seeking a viable solution to this conundrum, ‘circular fashion’ comprising secondhand clothing and rentals, seems to be offering a way out of our excessive production needs. Within this regenerative system, garments are circulated for as long as their maximum value is retained and then returned safely to the biosphere when they are no longer of use.
This has brought forth a new wave of innovative brands in the Indian market, providing customers with an alternate method of building their wardrobes. Labels such as Tali, Alaya by Stage 3 and Flyrobe are rental stores with an inventory of new and pre-loved designer dresses, accessories, and more. They are building a more accessible system where people across ranging incomes can partake in the luxury market that previously remained out of reach.
The rising environmental awareness amongst Gen-Z and Millennials has significantly helped in the growth of rental fashion as these groups take pride in accepting that they prefer to rent and re-wear rather than buy something new. Studies show that there is a considerable increase in environmental savings as a result of fewer resources being used up to produce brand new new clothes.
According to Ashri Jaiswal, co-founder of Indian rental store Ziniosa, each time a garment is rented, it reduces a person’s carbon, water, and waste footprint by 8 percent. Adding to the benefits, her brand offers high-end labels such as Sabyasachi and Tarun Tahiliani to consumers who earlier remained alienated and priced out by most of these designers.
The system also benefits these labels as they result in a much wider consumer base. In Indian society, where the business of weddings overburdens families, these alternatives are being hailed as the perfect solution for excessive consumption and further reduces the economic strain.
Having said all this, ultimately anything can qualify as fast fashion if one goes through it fast enough, and that includes rental and secondhand clothing. Many studies have challenged fashion rentals by revealing how transportation and dry-cleaning have hidden environmental impacts and in turn make renting less green. If items are rented at faster pace or in a similar fashion to the mainstream brands then little good can come of this circular system either.
Despite this, supporters of the rental system still claim that the philosophy of ‘buying less but better is more beneficial in the long run and that renting fashion is the lesser evil when compared to outright buying something that’s poorly made and unethically produced. Ultimately we can see how it has both plus points and negatives across the Indian market and what eventually dictates its success needs to be a community-wide change in our overall consumption patterns.
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